Woman accused of shoplifting sues store for false imprisonment

Michelle Keahey, East Texas Bureau Feb. 13, 2012, 9:26am

SHERMAN - Claiming she was assaulted and falsely imprisoned for stealing $50 worth of merchandise, a Wal-Mart shopper has filed a lawsuit against the store for assault and battery.

After criminal charges were dismissed, Zekiela Riley filed a civil suit against Ben Wilbanks, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Texas on Jan. 4 in Denton County District Court. The defendants removed the case to the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division on Feb. 7.

The suit states the incident occurred on Jan. 25, 2010, as Riley was shopping at the Wal-Mart located in Denton. Shortly after using the self check-out line with assistance from a Wal-Mart employee, Riley was stopped and told to go to a private security so her receipt and items could be checked. Riley states that once she entered the security room, Wilbanks and other employees accused her of shoplifting.

According to the allegations, Riley was shoved to the ground and Wilbanks placed his knee underneath Riley's chin while she was handcuffed to a bench. Riley alleges that Wilbanks told her to shut up and kicked her while she was on the ground handcuffed.

Riley was taken from the store by the Denton Police Department and was charged with a Class C Misdemeanor for theft under $50. The charges against her were dismissed, according to the suit.

Defendant Wilbanks is accused of assault and battery and for false imprisonment. As Wilbanks was acting within the scope of his employment with Wal-Mart, the store is liable for his actions under the doctrine of respondeat superior, the lawsuit states.

The plaintiff is asking the court for an award of damages for physical pain, mental anguish, medical expenses, punitive damages, interest and court costs.

Riley is represented by Wes Dauphinot, Susan E. Hutchins and Kern A. Lewis of Hutchison, Lewis & Dauphinot P.C. in Grapevine. A jury trial is requested.

U.S. District Judge Richard A. Schell is assigned to the case.

Case No. 4:12-cv-00062

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